Posts Tagged 'Hosea'

The Minor Prophets Part 1

The Minor Prophets include the following:

• Hosea, whose name means “salvation,” and whose book was written mostly to the Northern Kingdom of Israel for the purpose to encouraging them to repent or face certain destruction. This eventually happened when the Assyrians invaded and took away most of the inhabitants of Israel as slaves.
• Joel, whose name means “Yahweh is God.” His book of prophecy is all about the coming of the “Day of the Lord,” with all its judgements and destruction.
• Amos means “carried by God,” and his book is a collection of messages directed at the Northern Kingdom, which had become wealthy and arrogant and sinful.
• Obadiah, or “servant of God,” preached to Judah, the Southern Kingdom, to reassure them that Edom’s vicious attack against them would be avenged by God.
• Jonah’s name means, “peace” or “dove,” and teaches us that nobody can outrun God, not even His prophet.
• Micah means “who is like God?” and deals with the gap between rich and poor and how one group teaches another.
• Nahum, whose name means, “comfort,” wrote to bring peace, relief, comfort, and joy to the oppressed.
• Habakkuk, meaning “embrace,” was a man consumed with a burning desire to proclaim the joy of the Lord.
• Zephaniah means “hidden by God.” His book begins with the declaration that judgment is coming quickly and that some of Israel and other nations will be saved when the Lord returns.
• Haggai is an odd sort of prophet. His name means “festive,” a paradoxical name for a prophet. But then Haggai was an optimistic kind of guy who wrote about his hope that God’s people would repent and rebuild the Temple, at which time God’s presence would return.
• Zechariah, whose name means “remembered by God,” wrote all about the Second Coming, reminding the people that God had by no means forgotten them.
• Malachi, the last Minor Prophet, means “my messenger.” His book, the last in the Old Testament, serves as a kind of final warning – a last word – to Israel that the great Day of the Lord is coming.

These are the 12 minor prophets, yet they aren’t minor in any way. Their messages resonate with meaning for us today as surely as they did thousands of years ago. We’d do well to pay attention to the Word of the Lord through His “minor” prophets.

Hosea and his wayward wife

First among the minors is Hosea. Of this book, George Adam Smith, Scottish theologian and academic, wrote:

There is no truth uttered by later prophets about the divine grace which we do not find in germ in him…He is the first prophet of grace, Israel’s first evangelist.

God had a habit of using the experiences of His people to reveal Himself progressively in the Old Testament. Bit by bit, piece by piece, God showed Himself to His people until the coming of Jesus Christ, the fullest and final expression of Himself. Hosea is good example of this; through Hosea’s experiences with his wife, we catch a glimpse into the love God has for sinful man.

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.  (Hosea 1:2 NIV84)

This paragraph is fraught with difficulties, not the least of which is what God told Hosea to do. Would God have commanded His prophet, a holy man, to do something that was forbidden for priests to do and frowned upon for Israel in general? Should this incident be taken literally or figuratively? Augustine refused to believe God would ask a holy man to do this, so he viewed Hosea’s experiences as allegorical.

The old axiom, “the literal sense makes the most sense,” holds as much for Hosea as for the rest of the Bible. What we are reading here should be understood as an historical account written long after the fact. Hosea’s wife and children and their circumstances were real but symbolic warnings for a wayward people. Hosea was fully aware of the kind of woman God wanted him to marry – she would become a prostitute. Her name was Gomer, an unlikely name in our time, but meant, “to end,” “to come to an end,” or “to complete.” Hebrew names are always significant in the Bible. Keil thought that Gomer would be brought to “completion” or “made perfect” through her prostitution. It’s not that becoming a prostitute did her good, but that her horrible experience would parallel Israel’s own unfaithfulness to God.
The prophet would have two children, the bitter fruits of his adulterous wife. Verse two doesn’t necessarily mean that these children weren’t Hosea’s, but rather they shared the taint of unfaithful Gomer’s character. Therefore, God wanted Israel to understand that the coming judgment would fall not only on the nation as a whole, but also on each individual within the nation for each individual shared the sin of the entire nation.

Jezreel: God’s judgment is imminent.

Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel. ” (Hosea 1:4, 5 | TNIV)

The event at Jezreel took place back in 2 Kings 9:21 – 37, long before the child Jezreel was born. It was in Jezreel that the house of Ahab was massacred by Jehu, who claimed to have done the deed for God. In reality, Jehu’s motives were completely political. God promised to make things right in His time:

The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” (2 Kings 10:30 | TNIV)

Because Jehu acted with such cruelty, judgment would fall on his descendants. It was a heinous sin whose bill was coming due. Hosea lived long enough to witness the fulfillment of this prophecy when Israel’s military (Israel’s bow) was decimated by Shalmaneser in the plains of Jezreel.

But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people, so that all your fortresses will be devastated—as Shalman devastated Beth Arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed to the ground with their children. (Hosea 10:13, 14 | TNIV)

The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. (2 Kings 17:5, 6 | TNIV)

It took a long time, but the chickens came home to roost. Israel was scattered throughout the world.

So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left… (2 Kings 17:18 | TNIV)

Lo-Ruhamah: God’s mercy withheld.

Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, that I should at all forgive them. Yet I will show love to the house of Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the Lord their God. ” (Hosea 1:6, 7 | TNIV)

This unfortunate child’s name may suggest she was illegitmate – born without a father’s love. Symbolically, Lo-Ruhamah was named so to show that the Lord would not continue to show love or compassion towards a nation, Israel, that steadfastly rebelled against Him. God’s mercy had come to an end. He would step in and save no longer. Once Israel was taken captive, she would never come back. The so-called Northern Kingdom would never be restored, as the Southern Kingdom was. Israel would learn the hard way that at long last, God’s patience had run out and the Covenant had dissolved. He would no longer be her God – she would be forever an adulterous and idolatrous nation.

But, God would continue work with Judah. However, notice the odd wording of verse 7:

Yet I will show love to the house of Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the Lord their God.

The prounoun “I” is replaced with “the Lord their God.” Even though Judah was not free from the curse of exile and punishment, it would be saved from final apostasy through God’s favor.

Lo-Ammi: God’s love removed.

After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God. (Hosea 1:8, 9 | TNIV)

With this third child, God’s judgment would be complete. Jezreel had promised the scattering of the people. Lo-Ruhamah meant the end of God’s love and mercy. Finally, with Lo-Ammi, God would be forever finished with Israel – the Covenant would end. The people who were once referred to as “my people” by God, would no longer be His people.

Hope for the future

It’s pretty depressing so far. But when we read about God’s judgment and punishment, there is always hope. The hope is found in these verses:

Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.”

“Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.’ (Hosea 1:10, 11; 2:1 | TNIV)

There are centuries upon multiplied centuries of history in between verses 9 and 10. Even though God’s message to His people through Hosea is negative and depressing, God does allow a glimmer of hope to be seen. In all, there are six specific blessings mentioned in verses 9 and 10 –

• The nation will increase in number, “…like sand on the seashore, which cannot be counted…”
• A great spiritual revival, “…they will be called the children of the living God.”
• A re-gathering of the nation, “the people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together…”
• Messianic leadership, “…they will appoint one leader…”
• Victory of all enemies, “…will come up out of the land…”
• A full restoration of the Covenant, “say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.’”

Hosea: The Final Appeal

OutstretchedHand 

Hosea 14

 

For 13 grueling chapters, Hosea has given us sermons and rants dealing with sin, judgment, and punishment.  Here, in the final chapter of his book we read of the Lord’s final appeal to errant Israel.  To say this chapter is memorable would be an understatement.  It’s like the rainbow after a storm.  In it, we see a side of God that gives the sinner and backslider hope.  The loving heart of God is revealed in Hosea 14.  Nobody can read this chapter without understanding what God said back in 11:9—

I am God and not man…

If God thought and acted like a man, the game would be over as far as the human race is concerned!  But God is not a man, nor does He think like one.  And He does not deal with us like a man would.  Chapter 14 of Hosea gives all men hope as we discover the glorious triumph of grace.

One time, a king named Zedekiah asked another prophet, Jeremiah, this desperate question:

Is there any word from the Lord?  (Jeremiah 31:17  NKJV)

Zedekiah got his answer, and it was bad news for him.  But God’s Word to Hosea’s people and to backsliders of all ages and dispensations is simple:  Come back.

Returning to the Lord is as simple as these five steps:

Step One

O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity…  (Hosea 14:1  NKJV)

Even in its backslidden condition, the Lord is still Israel’s God!  Imagine the patience of a loving heavenly Father who hasn’t given up on His children and let them go.  This is our God!  Like the prodigal’s father, God never ceased to be Israel’s Father no matter how badly they may have wanted that relationship to end.

God is seen calling lost Israel back to Himself, but that call is based on their sins.  It’s interesting that God does not base His call to return on His love for them, which was real enough.  It was on account of their sins that they needed to come back to Him.  Implicit in God’s call was that (1) the people would have to acknowledge their sinful condition, and (2) they would be forgiven.

It’s in the backslider’s best interest to return to God, confess his sins and accept God’s gracious offer of forgiveness.  Those living in a backslidden condition have a completely skewed perspective.  They have “stumbled” over their sins and they are far worse off than if they had continued serving the Lord.  Sin has blinded them to their spiritually crippled state and inexplicably, backsliders will stubbornly claim they are “so much happier” stuck in their sins.  To these, God calls out, “Come back!”, not “Get lost!”

Step Two

Bring your petition. Come to the Lord and say, “O Lord, take away our sins; be gracious to us and receive us, and we will offer you the sacrifice of praise.”  (Hosea 14:2  TLB)

Verse two serves to underscore the importance of confession of sin and a request for God’s grace in returning to Him.  Hosea’s people had been offering sacrifices mechanically for generations; there was no heart behind them.  Now, however, they are to come to God, not with formal, ritualistic, religious observances, but with honest words spoken from the heart that acknowledge their true condition before the Lord.    Religious observances were of absolutely no value to God.

…they will come with their flocks and herds to sacrifice to God, but it will be too late—they will not find him. He has withdrawn from them and they are left alone.  (Hosea 5:6  TLB)

Truth be told, religion and grace are in constant opposition to each other.  Religion actually has nothing to do with God but everything to do with man.  It is man’s attempt to reach up to God his way.  Grace, however, is God reaching down to man.  Religion and grace cannot coexist; we may come to God in a religious way—man’s way; or we may come to God His way—by His grace.  Only one way is acceptable to God, and that’s the way of grace.  Hosea’s people needed to understand that, and so do we today.

Step Three

“Assyria cannot save us, nor can our strength in battle; never again will we call the idols we have made ‘our gods’; for in you alone, O Lord, the fatherless find mercy.”  (Hosea 14:3  TLB)

Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.  (KJV)

Their words of repentance are to be backed up by actions.  It’s one thing to own up to the wrong you’ve done, but it’s another thing to stop it cold.  Israel had been turning to other nations for help for generations, but in coming to God in repentance, they were to stop that disobedient act.  In fact, there were three things that sins that Israel had to repent from:  reliance on Assyria for salvation; relying on Egypt for military help; and relying on man-made idols for spiritual blessing and guidance.

In the KJV’s  “we will not ride upon horses,” Israel finally admits to a sin they committed hundreds and hundreds of years earlier:  the importation of horses  from Egypt.  This act was an outright rebellion against the command of Moses not to return to Egypt in search of horses.

Solomon’s horses were brought to him from Egypt and southern Turkey, where his agents purchased them at wholesale prices.  (1 Kings 10:28  TLB)

Be sure that he doesn’t build up a large stable of horses for himself, nor send his men to Egypt to raise horses for him there, for the Lord has told you, ‘Never return to Egypt again.’  (Deuteronomy 17:16  TLB)

How does this apply to backsliders today?  Christians must always be on guard against the deceptive lure of trusting anything or any person other than God.  A false God may take many forms.  What is their in your life that you rely on for security and assurance other than God?  The way back to God for us is the same as the way for Israel:  honestly confess our sins and stop them.

Step Four

The fourth step in returning to God (and staying with Him) is to believe in His promises or blessings for the future.  Restoration always follows repentance.  When we come to Him in repentance, God restores us to complete fellowship with Him and when at last Israel comes to God in repentance, that nation will be restored.

The remainder of this chapter describes the blessings awaiting Israel in the future.  They still have not repented on a national scale in the way they need to and they won’t until the days of the Tribulation.  The blessings in verses 4—8 will not be fully given to national Israel until the Millennium.  These verses are, therefore, eschatological.

I will refresh Israel like the dew from heaven; she will blossom as the lily and root deeply in the soil like cedars in Lebanon.  Her branches will spread out as beautiful as olive trees, fragrant as the forests of Lebanon.  Her people will return from exile far away and rest beneath my shadow. They will be a watered garden and blossom like grapes; they will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.

“O Ephraim! Stay away from idols! I am living and strong! I look after you and care for you. I am like an evergreen tree, yielding my fruit to you throughout the year. My mercies never fail.”  (Hosea 14:5—8  TLB)

We cannot imagine how glorious restored Israel will be.  In love, God has promised to do all this and more for His people.  That same redeeming love was manifested in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ’s vicarious work on the Cross does for us what will happen to Israel during the Millennium.

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!  (1 Corinthians 5:17  TLB)

An integral part of this process is found in verse 4—

Then I will cure you of idolatry and faithlessness, and my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be forever gone!

Note that God will cure the sin sickness of Israel; Israel will not cure itself because it cannot cure itself.  Christians need to understand this, too.  It is Jesus Christ that makes us into a “new creation,” we don’t do that.  It’s a work of grace.

Step Five

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things. Whoever is intelligent, let him listen. For the paths of the Lord are true and right, and good men walk along them. But sinners trying them will fail.  (Hosea 14:9  TLB)

This verse is what some scholars have called “a noble epilogue.”  It is also a fitting climax to the book.  Hosea had dealt with some incredible themes in his book:

  • The sovereignty of God, chapters 1—5;
  • Holiness, chapters 4—7;
  • Justice, chapters 8—10;
  • Love, chapters 11—14.

Verse 9 really is an appeal to his readers—including us—to understand and discern what he written.  When it comes to the Word of God – Hosea and the other 65 books –  constant reading, studying, and application is necessary because in doing so, we will not go astray but will remain on a path that leads to the Lord.

Conclusion

Hosea was, in terms of his preaching, a failure.  His efforts changed nothing in Israel.  Shortly after he ministered, the nation he loved so much stumbled and fumbled their way into captivity.

However, God judges us using a different standard.  His standard is:  faithfulness.  In God’s eyes, Hosea was a stunning success because he remained absolutely faithful.  He was unequaled among the Old Testament prophets.  He endured the faithlessness and betrayal of both his wife and his country, but he saw aspects of God’s character never seen before.

 

 

Hosea: Let Us Return to the Lord

open hands on sky

Hosea 6:1—3

 

These verses are Hosea’s heartfelt cry to his people.  They are also God’s final call to the northern kingdom of Israel.  Yet they are verses that look ahead, way ahead, to the future of the nation of Israel when God will heal them and restore them.  They are historical verses:  Hosea did say them.  They are prophetic because what they say hasn’t happened yet.  Sadly, the triumphant words of Hosea 6:1—3 will not come to pass until the Lord Jesus Christ returns to stand on the Mount of Olives.

Then I will pour out the spirit of grace and prayer on all the people of Jerusalem. They will look on him they pierced, and mourn for him as for an only son, and grieve bitterly for him as for an oldest child who died.  (Zechariah 12:10  TLB)

I will give you back your health again and heal your wounds. Now you are called “The Outcast” and “Jerusalem, the Place Nobody Wants.”(Jeremiah 30:17  TLB)

While these verses apply solely to national Israel, it’s wise to view them as a warning:  God will most certainly judge any nation that claims to be a “Christian nation,” has enjoyed His blessings and the privilege of the Word God, but then goes its own way with no regard for its divine heritage.

1.  There must be repentance

Come, let us return to the Lord; it is he who has torn us—he will heal us. He has wounded—he will bind us up.  (Hosea 6:1  TLB)

Chapters 5 and 6 are a continuous thought, so the chapter break is jarring and interrupts the flow of that thought.  Verse 1 of chapter 6 is connected to 5:15—

I will abandon them and return to my home until they admit their guilt and look to me for help again… (Hosea 5:15  TLB)

That’s God talking, and beginning at 6:1, we read Hosea’s cry—his response—to God, not that of his people in his day or ours.  In the future, the remnant of Israel will cry out like this and they will be restored.

This verse is significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we see the sovereignty of God at work.  It was God who had “torn” and “wounded” Israel.  God is the source of all, at least in the view of Hosea.  But had God perpetrated all that evil on Israel?  The view that God is the author of both good and evil was certainly the way Israel looked at things; even a casual reading of the Old Testament bears that out.  Even some in the Christian church today credit God with the cause of good and evil.  The problem is when that way of thinking collides with verses like James 1:13; 1 John 1:5; 1 Corinthians 14:33, etc.  God is not the author of evil; nothing bad flows from Him.  Israel, from their perspective, attributed all things, good and bad, to God.  That was their error.  It is more accurate to say that God allows evil to occur, and He is able to turn that evil around so that good can come of it and His character glorified.  He is in charge of all things and His foreknowledge is absolutely perfect.  Sometimes the Lord prevents evil from occurring and touching us, other times He allows it for reasons that may or may not be apparent to us but are clear to Him.

Israel was, in truth, torn and tortured by her own sin and rebellion.  God did not force them to sin and rebel.  Because of their backslidden state, they had experienced continual defeat and failure.  All of this could have caused them to come running back to God, yet it had the opposite effect.  God was teaching His people a lesson; a lesson they could learn only the hard way.  They needed Him; they need Him still.  One day, according to prophecy, this divine truth will finally dawn on them.

All people, not just Israel, need to understand this.  There is a real need for all people to repent and come to Christ, and even Christians need to repent sometimes!  Think about it:  we, like Israel, are constantly being torn apart by our own fears, anxieties, and other destructive emotions.  Time and time again, God in His providence puts us in positions where our only hope is Him.  Often in our pride, we go in the other direction, like Israel did.  Sometimes, we make the right choice and choose God.  But in either case, He can be glorified.

2.  How to repent

…return to the Lord…

The call to “return” means Israel had “left” the Lord.  They backslid (they “slid” away from God by their own volition), but they never for a moment stopped being His people; God continued to call out to “His people” even while they appeared to not be His people.

We see a New Testament teaching about this in the parable of the prodigal son.  When that wayward son made the decision to return home, he was demonstrating what real repentance is all about:  he realized his sinful condition, turned away from it, and returned home.  Those are the movements of true repentance.  Repentance is not the same thing as “feeling sorry” for your sins.  Anybody can feel sorry for their sins, especially when they get caught.  Real repentance involves a realization of your sinful condition, feeling Godly sorrow for it, but then going a step further and replacing that sin with God.

The beauty of God is that His arms are open wide, ready to accept the repentant sinner and the repentant believer!  God never gives up!

3.  Results of repentance

…he will heal us.  (Hosea 6:1a  TLB)

Israel will be healed when they finally repent of the things that are destroying them.  That makes common sense, doesn’t it?

Not only that, but repentance leads to peace with God and results in a joy that changes one’s whole disposition.  It’s amazing how a changed attitude can change the way you feel!

…He will revive us… (Hosea 6:2a  NKJV)

After the “healing” and the “binding up,” God will “revive” the  nation of Israel.  Remember, we are looking ahead to the future; to the days of the Millennial Kingdom.  At that time, Israel as a  nation will be revived.

If we look at the whole statement, we see something interesting:

After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up… (NKJV)

Who cannot make a connection between the Resurrection of Christ and the revival of national Israel?  Jesus Christ was raised on the third day for the justification of both Jews and Gentiles.  Contextually, this verse cannot refer to Jesus, but to the sudden revival (resurrection) of Israel when she finally repents.

When any sinner repents, his new position in Christ occurs immediately.  Salvation is immediate.  The new life begins the moment repentance takes place.  The very moment a sinner repents, he is filled with the Holy Spirit, and his new life begins:

Only the Holy Spirit gives eternal life.  (John 6:57  TLB)

This is what “revival” is all about!  In terms of national Israel, we see a graphic illustration of how life will return to them in Ezekiel 37.  After the prophet saw a vision in which a valley of old, dry bones suddenly came back to life, the Lord told him the meaning of that strange vision:

I will put my Spirit into you, and you shall live and return home again to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have done just what I promised you.  (Ezekiel 37:14  TLB)

And this is what happens when a sinner repents and when a Christian gets serious in his relationship with God.

The nation of Israel has a glorious future.  God refers to it as a resurrection. Israel’s resurrection will be based on the resurrection of Christ.  Our resurrection is also based on the One who rose from the dead on the third day.  Paul takes time in Romans 11 to talk about this.  Today, God’s purpose is to build His Church; to draw all people, both Jew and Gentile, to Himself through the work of Christ on the Cross.  When that Church is complete, and when it is taken out of the world, God will return to dealing specifically with the nation of Israel.  God has never forgotten them; He will never forget them.  He has a plan for Israel, and that plan involves returning their national glory based on His purposes for them.

…we may live in His sight…  (Hosea 6:2b  NKJV)

God will always have an eye on His people, Israel.  What a comfort!  Living in God’s sight is the privilege of all believers, of all dispensations.  To live in God’s sight means that God will always take care of you.  He sees every need you have.  He sees every struggle you engage in.  He sees every moment of doubt you experience.  But He is a loving heavenly Father who has given you LIFE.

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:37—39  NKJV)

Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him… (Hosea 6:3a  TLB)

The result of Israel’s revival or resurrection will be a desire to know Him more.  But knowing God more involves more than just head knowledge, as indicated by “let us press on.”  Knowing God for Israel in the future involves the same thing as knowing God today:  actively pursuing Him and searching Him out in His Word.

Every young man who listens to me and obeys my instructions will be given wisdom and good sense.   For the Lord grants wisdom! His every word is a treasure of knowledge and understanding.  (Proverbs 2:1, 2, 6 TLB)

He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.  (Hosea 6:3b  NKJV)

The Second Coming of Jesus, which will trigger the revival of national Israel, will be the latter, or the spring, rain:  a cause for great rejoicing.  Farmers and those who live off the land love the spring rains because of the benefit that is given to the crops.  That’s how the Second Coming will be received by those who will be looking for it!

But not only that, verse 3, which speaks of the glorious future, teaches us something of the faithfulness and grace of God today.  He is unchanging.  He is infinite and not limited by time.  Our mighty God, the One who created day and night and established the seasons is as sure and dependable as the sun that rises and sets as His command.  His grace and mercy refreshes our souls today.  He blesses us with His presence all day, every day so that we may keep returning to Him so that He may continually revive us.

The blessing and benefits waiting for national Israel are available to all believers today who live in a state of repentance.  Revival is there for the experiencing if believers would just take the time to get serious in their relationship with God.  Israel of Hosea’s day wasn’t ready to experience any of this.  They did not return to God.  Theirs will be future blessing.  You don’t have to wait.  You may experience the fullness of God’s richest blessings right now.  Like so many things in life, though, it’s all up to.

Hosea: Losing God

Man_Walking_Away

Hosea 5

 

Hosea 5 is a powerful chapter that talks about two of Israel’s biggest problems:  religious and political.  These two problems are related; the latter being influenced by the former.  We can see this situation playing out even today in our own country.  In Israel’s case, her religious problem was particularly nasty:  they were literally chasing after the Canaanite fertility cults.  Her political problem was disastrous:  instead of turning to God, they turned to Assyria and Egypt for help.  Their rebellion against their God was close to being complete as they had pretty much figured Him out of their religious lives and found alternatives for Him in their political lives.

This chapter tells us how God reacted to their faithless behavior.

1.  A sad result

Then at last, they will come with their flocks and herds to sacrifice to God, but it will be too late—they will not find him. He has withdrawn from them and they are left alone.  (Hosea 5:6  TLB)

The power behind this verse lies it what it means, not only in what it says.  To “come with their flocks and herds” means to search after God’s favor through sacrifice.  The problem with the Israelites, though, was that while they had the sacrifice part of the equation down to an art, they had no faith; they exhibited no evidence of true faith; they were all show.  We know from elsewhere in Scripture that mere outward sacrifice is never enough to move God, and it fact can elicit the exact opposite response from God than the desired one.

Samuel replied, “Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to him than in your offering the fat of rams to him. For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. And now because you have rejected the word of Jehovah, he has rejected you from being king.”  (1 Samuel 15:22—23  TLB)

We have an interesting juxtaposition occurring in chapters 4 and 5.  In chapter 4, Israel’s spirit of harlotry is what drove them away from God, but here in chapter 5, that same spirit is the reason God is withdrawing from His people.  You may think that removing His presence from them was pretty harsh.  After all, you may think, they were willing to make sacrifices and to seek the Him out.  But consider what was really happening here.  These people had fallen so far from God, that they were seeking the one True God at the altars of Baal!  They were literally mixing up religions, so mixed up they had become.  They foolishly thought they could combine the best of the Canaanite religions with their religion, expecting God to bless them.  How wrong they were!  No wonder God left them.

This is what happens when people try to approach God on their terms.  Christians have become very good at this; mixing worldliness with true worship and expecting God to “honor their hearts.”  But the fact is, it’s important to God how and even where we seek Him.  You will never find God if you are not looking for Him with all your heart, in the right way, in the right places.  He demands complete allegiance and loyalty.  He also demands obedience.  How can He reward your disobedient spirit with answered prayer?  Or with His presence?  There’s good reason why it seems so many churches are bereft of spiritual power and direction.  Too many churches have bought into the lie that the way to attract members is to appeal to their fleshly needs – things like worship/music style, a casual atmosphere, or even coffee in the sanctuary are thought “progressively clever” ways to get the young and hip to commit.   Appealing to the flesh is never a good idea under any circumstance!

2.  Reasons

God was angry enough with His people to take His presence away from them.  Ultimately, though, the nation’s leaders—political and religious—were the ones who bore responsibility for leading the people astray.

“Hear this, O priests!  Take heed, O house of Israel!  Give ear, O house of the king!  For yours is the judgment, because you have been a snare to Mizpah and a net spread on Tabor.”  (Hosea 5:1  NKJV)

It’s startling to discover that people evaluate Christ and our faith by our behavior.  We, like the political and religious leaders of Hosea’s day, can become a snare for others if we misrepresent God through our words and actions.  It was Emerson who insightfully observed,

What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you say.

Hosea’s main targets of attack were guilty of ensnaring and netting the people in sin.  Of course, the people were willing participants in the sinful rebellion against God, proving what was written by another prophet of God,

The one who sins is the one who dies. The son shall not be punished for his father’s sins, nor the father for his son’s. The righteous person will be rewarded for his own goodness and the wicked person for his wickedness.  (Ezekiel 18:19  TLB)

The leaders led the people further and further into sin and away from God, but the people wanted to be led in that direction.

What a terrible responsibility we have as Christians to make sure our testimony bears witness to the glory of God.  Somebody’s soul depends on how we behave!

Your deeds won’t let you come to God again, for the spirit of adultery is deep within you, and you cannot know the Lord.  (Hosea 5:4  TLB)

Sin creates a very real barrier between man and God.  One who constantly gives into his sinful nature and consistently goes off in a sinful direction will become so deeply fascinated with sin and bogged down in it that he will literally become its slave.

This is what had happened in Israel.  At first, they were merely interested in the false religions.  Soon, those false religions began to influence their thoughts and deeds.  That interest in the Canaanite religions became an all-out obsession that blocked the people from returning to God.  At first, they wanted both Baal and Yahweh, but in the end they lost interest in Yahweh.  Because they knowingly sinned against God, they grew to block all knowledge of God and the Law from their minds.

Because they walked away from God, they walked away from His divine protection and opened themselves up to the spirits of idolatry, harlotry, and an awful, sick obsession with the vilest religions of the pagan world.

For they have betrayed the honor of the Lord, bearing children that aren’t his. Suddenly they and all their wealth will disappear.  (Hosea 5:7  NKJV)

What an awful indictment against the people of God!  The leaders of God’s people behaved “deceptively.”  Literally, they behaved like an unfaithful husband.  These men knowingly led the people away from the Lord.  Noted scholars Anderson and Freedman have noted,

We are dealing with hypocritical Yahweh worship:  The depravity that makes repentance impossible is not renunciation of Yahweh, but complacent religiosity.

The people had been deluded into thinking they could approach God their own way, using their made-up rules.  They couldn’t have been more wrong.

3.  Results

So, what happens when God withdraws His presence from His people?

Worship became a waste of time.

Then at last, they will come with their flocks and herds to sacrifice to God, but it will be too late—they will not find him. He has withdrawn from them and they are left alone.  (Hosea 5:6  TLB)

To whom are your worshiping if God is not there?  As long as your heart is not right with God, there is nothing He can do for you.  No number of prayers, sacrifices, offerings, or good works, or any amount of positive thinking and effort expended in His service can make up for the lack of His presence.  If a Christian is out of fellowship with God, his testimony is worthless.

Broken

…Ephraim will be crushed and broken by my sentence because she is determined to follow idols.  (Hosea 5:11  TLB)

Because they had taken their eyes off God and God had taken His presence from them, the people (of Ephraim as noted, but really all the Israelites) turned even more to pagan religions and man-made gods for help and comfort.  However, what they didn’t realize is that they were simply compounding their problems by their continued state of rebellion against God.  When a person disobeys the Word of the Lord, they by default become obedient to worldly wisdom, which is most often opposed to God.

Even more lost

When Ephraim and Judah see how sick they are, Ephraim will turn to Assyria, to the great king there, but he can neither help nor cure. (Hosea 5:13  TLB)

What’s so sad is that both Israel and Judah could have been strong, robust, and healthy in every way if they had just returned in repentance to God.  But they didn’t, and so they rushed headlong into more and more trouble.  God Himself became their enemy, allowing their sin to grow and grow, and allowing the nation to decay, becoming more and more morally confused, culturally perverse, and politically corrupt until they became easy pickings for foreign nations.  Israel, fearing Egypt, turned to Assyria for protection.  They should have turned to God, because in the end, this alliance would lead to Israel’s end.

God remains patient

I will abandon them and return to my home until they admit their guilt and look to me for help again… (Hosea 5:15a  TLB)

God promises to stay away from Israel until she acknowledges her sin and guilt and returns to Him.  Sin carries awful consequences, but there is hope.  This chapter is depressing, but ends on a note of hope.  Like the prodigal son who found forgiveness when he came home, so it will be with Israel.  To this very day, God has not given up on Israel.  But He can’t do a thing until they fess up.  Historically, the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities did little to change their hearts.  This verse, then, looks forward into the far future, into the Millennium, when at last the Israelites will stand before the Messiah in repentance and seek Him.

The way God treated wayward Israel is the way He treats the backslider.  He doesn’t give up on them.  There is always hope for the believer who has wandered away from God.  He calls them, and in His sovereignty and providence He makes a way for them to find their way home.

Hosea: Spiritual Ignorance

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Hosea 4:6—11

 

Israel was in deep trouble and Hosea’s marriage was on the rocks because of the unfaithfulness of his wife.  Out of the heartbreaking experiences in own life, Hosea the prophet well understood how God felt.  God loved Israel, yet Israel had been behaving just like Hosea’s adulterous wife; she was cheating on God!  Like Gomer, Israel had become no better than prostitute.  The wisdom literature of the Old Testament talks a lot about two things :  how to live in harmony with God and the importance of avoiding prostitutes.  The two issues are not unrelated and Hosea demonstrates the wisdom of wisdom literature.  Consider Proverbs 23:26—28,

O my son, trust my advice—stay away from prostitutes. For a prostitute is a deep and narrow grave. Like a robber, she waits for her victims as one after another become unfaithful to their wives.  (TLB)

Love that doesn’t cost the lover anything is not real love.  Both Hosea and God paid a high price to love.  Hosea sought out his wayward wife and literally bought her back.  God seeks out sinners and brings them back from their broken lives.  Hosea and God paid the whole price with real love.

Chapter 4 of Hosea delves further into the problem of His sinful people.  The more God spoke through Hosea’s life and words, the more the religious leaders opposed him.  Religious leaders frequently are unable to deal with the true Word of God.  Amos, another minor prophet, faced similar opposition from a priest at Bethel named Amaziah:

“The idol altars and temples of Israel will be destroyed, and I will destroy the dynasty of King Jeroboam by the sword.”  But when Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, heard what Amos was saying, he rushed a message to Jeroboam, the king: “Amos is a traitor to our nation and is plotting your death. This is intolerable. It will lead to rebellion all across the land.”   (Amos 7:10, 11  TLB)

If you want to get the ire of religious leaders up, just talk about the simple Word of God!  Nothing drives them crazier than that.  Why?  It’s because while they may know a lot about their brand of religion, they know little of the Word of God.  And frequently, Biblical doctrines are at odds with religious doctrines.  Ignorance is not really bliss, especially when it comes to God.

1.  Ignorance of God is very common

The Lord has filed a lawsuit against you…  (Hosea 1:1a  TLB)

This is pretty serious!  God was angry and hurt with His people, and the only way He could get their attention was to “file a lawsuit” against them!  In all, the Lord lists three things in His suit:  His people showed no faithfulness , no kindness (or mercy), and there was no knowledge of God in the land.  How could this be?  These were God’s people, after all.  How could there be no longer be knowledge of God in the nation?  How many generations does it take for memories of God to fade away?  The first two charges—no faithfulness or kindness—are completely natural results of not knowing about God.  A person’s actions begin in his mind, and if he has no knowledge of God, how can his actions be godly?

In years gone by, Israel had enjoyed many manifestations of God’s presence, wisdom, and power.  They witnessed supernatural demonstrations of God and heard His word through the prophets.  In spite of such blessings, the people had for generations drifted further and further away from Him.

The same is true today, even in our “Christian nation.”  In terms of knowledge of God, this present generation is probably the most ignorant ever.  Ask many people about whether they “know God” and often you’ll get a response similar to, “God is unknowable.”  While this sounds like an intellectual, progressive thing to say, it’s actually dumb and flies in the face of what the Bible declares:

Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God. He existed before God made anything at all, and, in fact, Christ himself is the Creator who made everything in heaven and earth, the things we can see and the things we can’t; the spirit world with its kings and kingdoms, its rulers and authorities; all were made by Christ for his own use and glory.  (Colossians 1:15, 16  TLB)

How can anybody claim that knowing God is impossible?  If you can read, then you can read the Bible and get to know God.  If you can hear, then you can listen to the audio Bible and get to know God.  So, of course you can know God.  The problem is, most people don’t want to know Him, and so there is widespread ignorance.

2.  Ignorance of God is usually willful

My people are destroyed because they don’t know me, and it is all your fault, you priests, for you yourselves refuse to know me; therefore, I refuse to recognize you as my priests. Since you have forgotten my laws, I will ‘forget’ to bless your children.  (Hosea 4:6  TLB)

The very root of Israel’s sin was a lack of knowledge of the Word of God.  If you are a Christian, you are doomed to mediocrity at best if your knowledge of the Word is lacking.  Regardless of how many camp meetings, Bible conferences, evangelistic revival meetings you go to, if you don’t know what’s between the covers of your Bible, there is no way you can live a successful Christian life in this world because you won’t really know God.

There are no gimmicks or short cuts that can replace study of the Bible.  People are literally destroyed from a lack of knowledge of God.  The reason is simple and has been stated all ready:  our behavior descends from our knowledge.  If our minds are filled with the Word of God, then that knowledge will dictate our behavior.  But our minds are like a vacuum—something will fill that space if the Word isn’t there.  And given human nature, that “something” will be sinful.

3.  Willful ignorance of God is fatal

Destruction follows ignorance of God.  It is fatal to ignore God.

Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows!  If he sows to please his own wrong desires, he will be planting seeds of evil and he will surely reap a harvest of spiritual decay and death…  (Galatians 6:7, 8a  TLB)

This “spiritual decay and death” involves the following:

a.  God’s rejection

…you yourselves refuse to know me; therefore, I refuse to recognize you…  (Hosea 4:6b  TLB)

This particular admonition is aimed squarely at the priests of Hosea’s day but the principle encompasses all who claim to be believers.  We have a responsibility to “know” God.  All human beings are created in the image of God, and that image of God is stamped on our hearts whether we acknowledge it or not.  All human beings therefore have a desire to worship—to get to know—God.  Romans 1 makes it clear that no one has an excuse in this matter.  Not knowing God is almost always a result of refusing to know God.  Refusing to recognize God will result in God not recognizing you.  Most of us are vaguely familiar with what Jesus said along these lines:

If anyone publicly acknowledges me as his friend, I will openly acknowledge him as my friend before my Father in heaven.  But if anyone publicly denies me, I will openly deny him before my Father in heaven.  (Matthew 10:32, 33  TLB)

To reject the call of God to salvation is to be ultimately rejected.

b.  Glory turned to shame

The more my people multiplied, the more they sinned against me. They exchanged the glory of God for the disgrace of idols.  (Hosea 4:7  TLB)

Previously, God had promised to Abraham that He would bless his descendants (the future nation of Israel) by causing them to multiply.  It’s undeniable that this had always happened; wherever the Jews ended up, Egypt, Babylon or Persia, they grew in numbers.  God declared that His people had exchanged His glory for the pseudo-glory of idols.  The “glory” of Israel was God’s Shekinah glory; God’s visible presence in the Temple.  His glory was their glory; the glory of being the one nation that worshipped the One true God while all the nations around them worshipped a multitude of idols.  Other nations had no knowledge of God and as a result, their ignorance influenced their behavior.  Those godless nations were backwards in every way, full of violence, riddled with superstitions, and overflowing with the sickness of sin.  But Israel, because they enjoyed God’s presence and had a knowledge of Him, was prosperous, peaceful, healthy, and – at least in the beginning –  was a nation heading into history as being the greatest, most glorious nation that ever existed.  But their glory was really God’s glory influencing their behavior!  God’s glory in Israel – manifested in a nation unlike any other –  was so famous, even the Queen of far away Sheba came to visit to check it out.

But, thanks to fraudulent religious leaders and corrupt political leaders who led the nation astray, the people forsook God; they ignored Him and therefore God withdrew His presence from the Temple.  And this was to their shame.  The one thing that set Israel apart from all other nations was gone and they quickly became just like any other nation.

Israel’s decline was a result of their willful ignorance of God, but it was God who allowed it to happen.  Notice how the NKJV translates verse 7:

The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame.

Our God is a jealous God, and He will not tolerate any idol in His place.  He will not put up with any rival for our affections.  If you are determined to let any idol take God’s place—an idol could be your job, your children, your spouse, money—that idol will certainly be changed into something shameful.

c.  Fruitless effort

They will eat and still be hungry. Though they do a big business as prostitutes, they shall have no children, for they have deserted me and turned to other gods.  (Hosea 3:10  TLB)

The priests were “eating” the sins of the people (verses 8, 9); that is, their appetite for sin was literally insatiable.  But also, a real famine was coming to the land.  This famine would cause real hurt and it was a direct result of the sins the people were committing.

God’s judgment is always interesting to consider, unless it’s against you of course.  When you are in willful sin; when you are turning away from God and attempting to fill your life with idols, whatever you try to cram into your heart to make you feel good and satisfied will never be enough.  This is most certainly the experience of every backslider.  Those who try to find meaning outside of a relationship with Christ will always find disappointment.  Searching for love, peace, acceptance, or anything meaningful outside of God will be a fruitless effort.  Jesus said that He was the “bread of life.”  If you seek satisfaction from other bread, you won’t find the life you are looking for.

Hosea’s Israel was lost and spiritually blind and had no interest in doing what needed to be done to change their deplorable condition.  Do you?  True, lasting fulfillment is found only in a relationship with Jesus Christ:

For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ. He is the highest Ruler, with authority over every other power.  (Colossians 2:9, 10  TLB)

Hosea: A Divine Betrothal

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HOSEA 2

 

God’s love for Israel is hard to understand.  Almost from the very beginning she had rebelled against Him, complained, and been guilty of spiritual adultery.  Israel’s sin ran so deep; it was as though rebellion was in her DNA.

For their mother has committed adultery. She did a shameful thing when she said, ‘I’ll run after other men and sell myself to them for food and drinks and clothes.’  (Hosea 2:5  TLB)

But God’s love for Israel did not depend on her loveliness.  In fact, God’s love for sinful man has nothing to do with sinful man.

In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins.  (1 John 4:10  TLB)

Yes, God’s love is very difficult to understand.  It’s agape love; a special love that is unconditional.  God loves us as much as He can—He will never love us less, and He cannot love us more.

The allegory in Hosea illustrates this concept of God’s amazing love better than any sermon ever could.

I will bind you to me forever with chains of righteousness and justice and love and mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and love, and you will really know me then as you never have before.

“In that day,” says the Lord, “I will answer the pleading of the sky for clouds, to pour down water on the earth in answer to its cry for rain. Then the earth can answer the parched cry of the grain, the grapes, and the olive trees for moisture and for dew—and the whole grand chorus shall sing together that ‘God sows!’ He has given all!

“At that time I will sow a crop of Israelites and raise them for myself! I will pity those who are ‘not pitied, and I will say to those who are ‘not my people,’ ‘Now you are my people’; and they will reply, ‘You are our God!’ ”  (Hosea 2:19—23  TLB)

1.  The manner of God’s betrothal

What exactly is a betrothal?  Literally is means “to woo a virgin.”  Or, we may say betrothal is the act of courtship.  This is what God said He would do to Israel:  He would court her.  He would, in time, win Israel for Himself.  This is God’s solemn promise to Israel that in the future she would be betrothed to Him forever.  In that day, Israel will never again be estranged from God, as in Old Testament times.

How will God do this?   This chapter of Hosea describes God’s technique for “wooing” Israel.

In righteousness

God would bind Himself to Israel in complete righteousness.   His betrothal to Israel will be based on His perfect character and Israel’s real need.  What is the thing that Israel needs most?  She needs to be righteous.  So what God is saying to Israel is that “in that day,” He would impute, or cover, her with His righteousness.

In justice

The betrothed, Israel, has been shown to be completely unworthy to be the Lord’s bride.  She had been shown to be guilty of heinous and awful sins, completely covered in a sin-debt she could never hope to repay.  How can she be made clean enough to be wed to God?  God will deal with Israel is complete justice.  Sin must be judged.  Sinners must be paid their wages:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:23  NIV)

But, through the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, God is able to deal with Israel (and, in fact, all sinners) in a perfectly just way:

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.  (1 John 2:2  NIV)

He is the one who took God’s wrath against our sins upon himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and he is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s.  (1 John 2:2  TLB)

Sin and guilt must be judged and they have been judged in Jesus Christ.  God’s eternal Son, in seeking to bind lost humanity to God the Father, took on its nature, bore its sin, and shed His Blood to cleanse us; to make it fit to be the betrothed.

In lovingkindness

This word has reference to the aspect of God’s covenant-keeping nature.  His love for Israel will be manifested in His faithfulness to His Word or promise concerning her.  This idea is expressed over 20 times throughout the Psalms.  God promised some very specific things to Israel—things that have not come to pass yet—and His nature guarantees that those promises will be fulfilled.

In mercy

The word used here is ruhamah, or “compassion.”  And God’s compassion for Israel is manifold!   It is multifaceted.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one pall things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.  (Ephesians 1:7—10  NKJV)

The mercy or the compassion of God is a strong motivational force that beckons us to completely yield ourselves to Christ.  When you understand all that God did for you in Christ, don’t you want to love Him back?  Isn’t that enough to compel you to live for Him?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:1, 2  NKJV)

In faithfulness

Finally, this proposed marriage will be made by God in total faithfulness.  God’s faithfulness to Israel is what is in view here, but faithfulness is a two-way street.  In the Old Testament, God had always been faithful to Israel but that faithfulness was not returned.  Therefore, there was a necessary separation between Israel and God.  However, in that great future day of the reconciliation of all things, a brand new relationship will be established by God; that separation will come to an end and Israel will be faithful to God for the first time.

When the people of Israel have finally received all that God has for them, they will finally know God and will finally be faithful to Him.  This new relationship was on Jesus’ mind in the Garden as He prayed to His Father:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  (John 17:3  NKJV)

The simple fact is, the ability to “know God” is a gift from God.  This gift is given to us as much as it will be given to Israel in that future day.

2.  The purpose of the betrothal

The purpose of this betrothal is obvious:  eternal union with God

That Israel may really know God

Israel certainly doesn’t know God today.  As a nation, she is so secular she can’t get too much farther away from Him!  But when their sin problem is finally taken care of, they will gain eternal perspective; they will finally see God for Who He really is and of course they will see Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

This kind of knowledge of God is not head knowledge, but rather heart knowledge.  It is this heart knowledge that results in salvation.

The day will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new contract with the people of Israel and Judah. It won’t be like the one I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a contract they broke, forcing me to reject them, says the Lord.  But this is the new contract I will make with them: I will inscribe my laws upon their hearts, so that they shall want to honor me; then they shall truly be my people and I will be their God.  At that time it will no longer be necessary to admonish one another to know the Lord. For everyone, both great and small, shall really know me then, says the Lord, and I will forgive and forget their sins.  (Jeremiah 31:31—34  TLB)

But this “change of heart” is not something Israel will be able to do for herself.  God will do it; He will give her a new heart.

I will give them hearts that respond to me. They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with great joy.  (Jeremiah 24:7  TLB)

This is something every sinner can attest to:  God has given them a new heart, one that beats after Him.  It was a desire of David’s too, as he expressed it in Psalm 51:

Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires.  (Psalm 51:10  TLB)

Israel will confess God

Verse 23 makes it clear:

You are our God!

Verses 22 and 23 constitute a play on words that doesn’t come across in the English translations of our Bible.  The play on words has to do with Gomer’s children, a son called Jezreel, a daughter Lo-Ruhamah and another son Lo-Ammi.  God will not only bring the family back together again (regather Israel), but they cease to be “Lo-Ruhamah,” the pitiless daughter of a harlot.  God will show them mercy.  In our day today, Israel is really “Lo-ammi,” they are “not God’s people.”  But in that future day, God will finally declare that “they are my people” and they will say in all earnestness, “You are our God.”  This isn’t happening yet.  It will happen in the future.  This is an exciting prophecy for the Millennium.

Israel will be partners with God

This is something to stop and ponder for a moment.  According to Genesis, a wife is to be a husband’s helper; she is to bring into a marriage something her husband lacks.  She becomes his partner in life.  So it will be with Israel.  When she is finally united to her Lord, she will become His partner in the Kingdom.  Again, this finds its fulfillment during the Millennium when the Jews become the great evangelists, taking the Gospel of the Kingdom all over the world.

But consider how this applies to believers today.  Today we are co-workers with Christ.

We are only God’s coworkers.  (1 Corinthians 3:9a  TLB)

We, who have become part of God’s family, have a responsibility today to work with Christ in building His Church; it is our responsibility to work to extend the Kingdom in the here and now through witnessing and sharing the Gospel with the lost.  If you are in God’s family, then “the family business” ought to be yours.

Hosea: Spiritual Ignorance

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Hosea 4:6—11

Israel was in deep trouble.  Hosea’s marriage was on the rocks because the unfaithfulness of his wife.  Out of the heartbreaking experiences in own life, Hosea the prophet well understood how God felt.  God loved Israel, yet Israel had been behaving just like Hosea’s adulterous wife; she was cheating on God!  Like Gomer, Israel had become no better than prostitute.  The wisdom literature of the Old Testament talks a lot about two things:  how to live in harmony with God and the importance of avoiding prostitutes.  The two issues are not unrelated and Hosea demonstrates the wisdom of wisdom literature.  Consider Proverbs 23:26—28,

O my son, trust my advice—stay away from prostitutes. For a prostitute is a deep and narrow grave. Like a robber, she waits for her victims as one after another become unfaithful to their wives.  (TLB)

Love that doesn’t cost the lover anything is not real love.  Both Hosea and God paid a high price to love.  Hosea sought out his wayward wife and literally bought her back.  God seeks out sinners and brings them back from their broken lives.  Hosea and God paid the whole price with real love.

Chapter 4 of Hosea delves further into the problems of His sinful people.  The more God spoke through Hosea’s words, the more the religious leaders opposed him.  Religious leaders are frequently unable to deal with the true Word of God.  Amos, another minor prophet, faced similar opposition from a priest at Bethel named Amaziah:

“The idol altars and temples of Israel will be destroyed, and I will destroy the dynasty of King Jeroboam by the sword.”  But when Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, heard what Amos was saying, he rushed a message to Jeroboam, the king: “Amos is a traitor to our nation and is plotting your death. This is intolerable. It will lead to rebellion all across the land.”   (Amos 7:10, 11  TLB)

If you want to get the ire of religious leaders up, just preach the simple Word of God!  Nothing drives them crazier than that.  Why?  It’s because while they may know a lot about their brand of religion, they know little of the Word of God.  And frequently, Biblical doctrines are at odds with religious doctrines.  Ignorance is not really bliss, especially when it comes to God.

1.  Ignorance of God is very common

The Lord has filed a lawsuit against you…  (Hosea 1:1a  TLB)

This is pretty serious!  God was angry and hurt with His people, and the only way He could get their attention was to “file a lawsuit” against them!  In all, the Lord lists three things in His suit against His people:  they showed no faithfulness , no kindness (or mercy), and there was no knowledge of God in the land.  How could this be?  These were God’s people, after all.  How could there no longer be knowledge of God in the nation?  Where did all that knowledge go?  How many generations does it take for memories of God to fade away?  The first two charges—no faithfulness or kindness—are completely natural results of not knowing about God.  A person’s actions begin in his mind, and if he has no knowledge of God, how can his actions be godly?

In years gone by, Israel had enjoyed many manifestations of God’s presence, wisdom, and power.  They witnessed supernatural demonstrations of God and heard His word through the prophets.  In spite of such blessings, the people had for generations drifted further and further away from God.

The same is true today, even in our “Christian nation.”  In terms of knowledge of God, this present generation is probably the most ignorant ever.  Ask many people about whether they “know God” or not and often you’ll get a response similar to, “God is unknowable.”  While this sounds like an intellectual, progressive thing to say, it’s actually dumb and flies in the face of what the Bible declares:

Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God. He existed before God made anything at all, and, in fact, Christ himself is the Creator who made everything in heaven and earth, the things we can see and the things we can’t; the spirit world with its kings and kingdoms, its rulers and authorities; all were made by Christ for his own use and glory.  (Colossians 1:15, 16  TLB)

How can anybody claim that knowing God is impossible?  If you can read, you can read the Bible and get to know God.  If you can hear, you can listen to the audio Bible and get to know God.  So, of course you can know God.  The problem is, most people don’t want to know Him, and so there is widespread ignorance.

2.  Ignorance of God is usually willful

My people are destroyed because they don’t know me, and it is all your fault, you priests, for you yourselves refuse to know me; therefore, I refuse to recognize you as my priests. Since you have forgotten my laws, I will ‘forget’ to bless your children.  (Hosea 4:6  TLB)

The very root of Israel’s sin was a lack of knowledge of the Word of God.  If you are a Christian, you are doomed to mediocrity at best if your knowledge of the Word is lacking.  Regardless of how many camp meetings, Bible conferences, evangelistic revival meetings you go to, or the number of hours you spend listening to KLOVE, if you don’t know what’s between the covers of your Bible, there is no way you can live a successful Christian life in this world.

There are no gimmicks or short cuts that can replace study of the Bible.  People are literally destroyed from a lack of knowledge.  The reason is simple and has been stated all ready:  our behavior descends from our knowledge.  If our minds are filled with the Word of God, that knowledge will dictate our behavior.  But our minds are like a vacuum—something will fill that space if the Word isn’t there.  And given human nature, that “something” will be sinful.

3.  Willful ignorance of God is fatal

Destruction follows ignorance of God.  It is fatal to ignore God.

Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows!  If he sows to please his own wrong desires, he will be planting seeds of evil and he will surely reap a harvest of spiritual decay and death…  (Galatians 6:7, 8a  TLB)

This “spiritual decay and death” involves the following:

a.  God’s rejection

…you yourselves refuse to know me; therefore, I refuse to recognize you…  (Hosea 4:6b  TLB)

This particular admonition is aimed squarely at the priests of Hosea’s day but the principle encompasses all who claim to be believers.  We have a responsibility to “know” God.  All human beings are created in the image of God, and that image of God is stamped on our hearts whether we acknowledge it or not.  All human beings therefore have a desire to worship—to get to know—God.  Romans 1 makes it clear that no one is without excuse in this matter.  Not knowing God is almost always a result of refusing to know God.  Refusing to recognize God will result in God not recognizing you.  Most of us are vaguely familiar with what Jesus said along these lines:

If anyone publicly acknowledges me as his friend, I will openly acknowledge him as my friend before my Father in heaven.  But if anyone publicly denies me, I will openly deny him before my Father in heaven.  (Matthew 10:32, 33  TLB)

To reject the call of God to salvation is to be ultimately rejected.

b.  Glory turned to shame

The more my people multiplied, the more they sinned against me. They exchanged the glory of God for the disgrace of idols.  (Hosea 4:7  TLB)

Previously, God had promised Abraham to bless the nation by causing them to multiply.  It’s undeniable that this had always happened; wherever the Jews ended up, they grew in numbers.  God declared that His people had exchanged His glory for the pseudo-glory of idols.  The “glory” of Israel was God’s Shekinah glory; the visible presence of God in the Temple.  His glory was their glory; the glory of being the one nation that worshipped the One true God while all the nations around them worshipped a multitude of idols.  That was their glory, and that glory was obvious in the world; even the Queen of Sheba came to visit!  The fame of Israel was God’s presence among His people.

But, thanks to fraudulent religious leaders who led the nation astray, the people forsook God; they ignored Him and God withdrew His presence from the Temple.  And this was to their shame.  The one thing that set Israel apart from all other nations was gone.

Israel’s decline was a result of their willful ignorance of God, but it was God who caused it to happen.  Notice how the NKJV translates verse 7:

The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame.

Our God is a jealous God, and He will not tolerate any idol in His place.  He will not put up with any rival for our affections.  If you are determined to let any idol take God’s place—an idol could be your job, your children, your spouse, money—that idol will certainly be changed into something shameful.

c.  Fruitless effort

They will eat and still be hungry. Though they do a big business as prostitutes, they shall have no children, for they have deserted me and turned to other gods.  (Hosea 3:10  TLB)

The priests were “eating” the sins of the people (verses 8, 9); that is, their appetite for sin was literally insatiable.  But also, a real famine was coming to the land.  This famine would cause real hurt and it was a direct result of the sins the people were committing.

God’s judgment is always interesting to consider, unless it’s against you.  When you are in willful sin; when you are turning away from God and attempting to fill your life with idols, whatever you try to cram into your heart to make you feel good and satisfied will never be enough.  This is most certainly the experience of every backslider.  Those who try to find meaning outside of a relationship with Christ will always find disappointment.  Searching for love, peace, acceptance, or anything meaningful outside of God will be a fruitless effort.  Jesus said that He was the “bread of life.” If you seek satisfaction from other bread, you won’t find the life you are looking for.

Hosea’s Israel was lost and spiritually blind and had no interest in doing what needed to be done to change their deplorable condition.  Do you?  True, lasting fulfillment is found only in a relationship with Jesus Christ:

For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ. He is the highest Ruler, with authority over every other power.  (Colossians 2:9, 10  TLB)


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